A Global Campaign to Put a Bench on Every Corner

We will soon be announcing the launch of a Global Campaign to Put a Bench on Every Corner. With the understanding and appreciation of this catalytic power that benches hold. As the first step of the campaign we want to plant these "seeds" of social life, it seems only right to re-post our article about the beloved bench round a tree at the Victual Market in Munich. It is a symbol of the power that something seemingly simple holds for life in a community.

Let’s Put A Bench on Every Street Corner
In an era where social isolation underlies so many of our society challenges, a simple bench to draw us outside our private lives enabling us to connect may be the perfect antidote.

This simple bench does a lot for a small part of a wonderful market. It creates a gathering place that connects businesses and people bringing them together.

The Munich Victuals Market in the heart of Munich is as much a city square as it is a market. As you look at the market as a whole, all the pieces come together to create one of the most dynamic year-round centers of any major city.

Driving the Local Food Economy with Social Life: Munich’s Victuals Market
The Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt) in Munich, Germany Central “Market Square” is typical of the historic squares around Europe, showcasing the local commerce, culture and diversity in the center of each city.

One of the many pieces that add up to make this market one of the best in Europe is a simple bench that helps to make a section of this special market work at even the most basic of needs, seating.

It's hard to believe that a tiny seed holds the potential to become a majestic tree supporting an ecosystem. But it does. The same is true of a bench. Something as simple as a few pieces of metal and a couple of planks holds the potential to be the hub of a thriving community, because of its power to bring people together and thus foster an ecosystem of social and commercial life.

This example at a Munich market is both. During the day it offers a convenient spot to sit (right), but when the market closes they remove this “bench” leaving behind a railing to protect the tree.

When the kiosk vendors come in the morning to re-open these two stalls (a juice bar and a soup stand), they attach two wooden “platforms” for sitting or leaning to the railing. It still looks pretty uninviting, BUT…it becomes a popular social space in a busy market.

At the juice bar, these two women sit down with their drinks, have a chat and watch the people go by.

On the soup side, people also gather to eat or just sit and talk. Notice the way the bench allows people to position themselves for a more comfortable conversation—a process known as triangulation.

So, what might have looked like an unlikely place to sit becomes a major amenity in the life of that part of a very large and important market. In our work we see special and very unique settings like this as the foundation of great places. This is Placemaking at its best, and it is often “right in front of our noses if we look.”

Other Market Posts

London’s Borough Market: A Public Market Driven by and for Social Life
The Borough Market is woven into the neighborhood. Coming at it from multiple directions one finds themselves suddenly in the market. The intensity increases as you get into the many the hearts of the market.
Social Encounters of 4 Kinds: A Field Guide to Markets
A big reason we enjoy markets are the plentiful opportunities for conversation

The mission of the Social Life Project is to incite a renaissance of community connection in public spaces around the globe. Through our online publication, presentations, campaigns, and catalytic projects, we can create transformative impact on communities everywhere. Our work grows out of more than 50 years devoted to building the global placemaking movement. It is an initiative of the Placemaking Fund, along with PlacemakingX — a global network of leaders who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive, and beloved communities.If you are interested in collaborating (articles, presentations, exhibits, projects, and more) or supporting the cause contact us.

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